Dakota the owl makes a triumphant return to public life

WAUKESHA -- After surviving an abduction and 25 days in the wild, Dakota the owl made his first public appearance following his ordeal this weekend.

"Today was the icing on the cake," Leslie Kiehl, the Education Director at the Wildlife in Need Center said. "We knew he was physically ready to go back out and teach, but today showed us he is emotionally ready."

On Saturday, Dakota made his first public appearance since his abduction, at the UW-Waukesha theater in front of dozens of excited and emotional people. "I wanted to clap and jump, and when they said not to, it was very hard not to," Robin Gallo said. "But when she was telling us about his recovery and showing the pictures, it just brought tears to my eyes."

"It was quite the moment when they brought him out. I'm really glad we came," Rex White added.

On November 12, 2011 two young men abducted Dakota. Dakota, unprepared to fend for himself in the wild, escaped and was missing for 25 days. On December 7, Dakota was found. However, he was severely dehydrated and malnourished and close to death.

Through rehabilitation and care from the people at the Wildlife in Need Center and a veterinarian, Dakota has made both a physical and emotional recovery, leading up to his big day in the spotlight Saturday. "It's just such a wonderful day. I think not only having Dakota back, but realizing the amount of people that it's impacted and the amount of people that wanted to come and see him," Kiehl added.

Dakota will continue to make public appearances, but there might be times when he is held back if he shows signs of nervousness due to the post-traumatic stress from the incident.